Category — Interviews

Look Back, Step Forward 4

December 20, 2017

In keeping with the end of old things and start of new, we have an announcement here at Fork & Fiction. After almost six years of collaboration, inspiration and fun, our team of two will soon be one. Ria is stepping away from her part of the blog to focus on her writing, career and other mystery projects. It’s the end of an era and we’re both very sad, but also excited for what 2018 holds for both of us, and for Fork & Fiction. So here’s Ria with one last collection of thoughts to round out an eventful year and a beautiful, powerful partnership in words.

 

 

I’m going to miss you all so much. Working on the blog, creating posts, thinking about things by writing them down here, has been a blessing and a joy. We’ve had babies, bought/sold houses, moved to new cities and countries and written and published numerous books, all while recording it here. That’s no small thing.

So I thought I’d take a look back at a few of the posts I most enjoyed, whether it’s for the writing, photos, event that inspired it, or the conversation it sparked. Those are the things that matter to me most, and the things that I will carry with me forever.

Lavender Honeycake. This was such a pleasure in all ways—I was alone in the house (can’t recall why), the summer air was hot and sweet, I made this delicious cake and got to enjoy it before everyone else came home. Luxury. I can’t wait to make it again next summer.

To Life. I admit, I love an excuse to take pictures of piggies. And caterpillars. But this one was also unexpectedly sobering (which I think comes across in the post). It was that great balance of bittersweet that DH and I love so much. Which is just the way life is, right? And there were some thoughtful comments and conversations afterward that really made me think. Love that too.

Our whole How She/He Does It series was so much fun, but I especially enjoyed interviewing Hannah. It was back at the start, when we were just figuring out what we were doing (or have we ever??) and it was a way to introduce ourselves and also learn more about the other. And reading it now is also a trip because we’ve changed! Our families and locations have changed! Life has really moved on, but the foundation, the truest parts of us, are still the same. And what a great way to go forward into 2018, with a look back and an understanding of where we’ve come from.

So with that I want to send out the HUGEST hug to my fantastic collaborator and wonderful friend, Hannah, with whom I’ve been so honoured to create this blog. I know you’ll do amazing and creative things with it in the coming months and years and I look forward to seeing it evolve.

As for me, I’m off to do some scheming and planning for a new website and finish the lovely labour of my latest novel, out in 2019. I can always be found on twitter and Instagram as @riavoros and for now, through my soon-to-be-replaced website www.riavoros.com . Thank YOU, our readers, for giving us your time and thoughts and good energy. It’s been wonderful connecting with so many of you.

 

With much love and hope for 2018,

Ria

 

 

In: Food, From Ria, How She (or he) Does It, Includes a recipe!, Interviews, Kids and Parenting, Seasonal, Writing

(Happy Fathers Day to) Our Guy. 7

September 2, 2017

I am not a grown-up. Surely I can’t be a grown-up if I sulk at having to fold the laundry or stack the dishwasher. I can’t be a grown-up if I still don’t quite understand the stock market. I mustn’t be a grown-up if I can’t change a car tyre or properly control my own heating system and regularly go about with odd socks on. Right?? And yet, here I am, grown. And with three whole, smallish, growing humans I am responsible for. Ahem. Co-responsible for.

 

 

Matt and I met when we were even less grown-up than the faux (hahaha no way, really?) grown-up we are now. We met, we married, we made a family. I became a mother and he became a father and we fell neck-deep into impersonating adults. Parenting is an insane thing to share with another person I’ve discovered. It’s terrifying, exposing and incredible. It’s an experience of love so elevating mixed with fear so searing and banality so deathly dull it cannot adequately be described. It certainly cannot be prepared for. Through parenting Matt and I have never been more tested. Parenting has torn us apart and soldered us back together, a scrappy, patched-up mess. Our marriage, our grown up-ness, if you could see it, probably looks like something ungraceful and tattered, made stronger from its tears and scars, robust and delicate, worn and hopeful. At this point, almost ten years in and with three madcap daughters in tow, the love and laughter we share is earned and hard won. Magic and luck has run low and hard graft has had to make up for the shortfall.

 

 

As parents Matt and I are utterly imperfect. I shout too much and lose my cool too quickly. We are often on our phones when we should be paying attention. We say and do the wrong things, all the time. Except, of course, when we manage to the right thing, which does happen too. Before I had kids I thought that loving them would be enough and that loving them would see us through everything. I had complete blind faith in loving as the clear and simple answer to absolutely everything. Now I know that loving isn’t always enough. There are things that loving cannot miraculously, instantly fix. But it is something. It’s a big something.

 

 

Matt loves our girls and me; he loves us like crazy. Sometimes, when he’s staring at one of our daughters, I can see the love in his face, in his eyes; love so fierce and explosive he could spontaneously combust. Into rainbows. He is perpetually cuddly and steadfastly protective of us. He is probably more optimistic than I am, more likely to think that things are fine even when they are a bit not-fine. He works doggedly and in earnest, with unfailing integrity. He believes in us all madly; is completely convinced we are the best people on the planet. Even when he comes home grumpy or distracted he can still make us laugh, can still act like a huge, charming (somewhat irritating) toddler and have us in stitches. He looks at us like we are the most beautiful beings he has ever seen. He is, undoubtedly, a good Dad.

 

Matt wasn’t very keen on being interviewed but I persevered and eventually he paused the Netflix. That’s right, take note, he paused the Netflix for you guys. So you’d better read his answers and comment and make him feel good, or you might never hear from him again…

 

Hi Matt. So, who are you (other than what you do for a job)?

 

I’m a man who loves his family, who wants to enjoy life to the fullest and see amazing places and watch my children grow with my wife beside me.

 

What are some of your favourite things?

 

The ocean, the snow, my children, my family, markets, farms, meat, barbecue, soup… I have this idea lately of cooking heaps of onions and making a French onion soup.

 

What are some of your least favourite things?

 

Selfishness, egos, judgmental people, balloons, wind, Auckland winters – being hot one minute and cold the next.

 

What’s the best thing about your kids?

 

They are thoughtful with each other. They respect each other. They are kind people.

 

What do you wish for?

 

To see my children’s children, with my wife by my side. To travel places with my wife by my side. For my wife to take up skiing and love it.*

 

How did you meet Hannah?

 

She worked with me in my first job in NZ. She came into my office and I remember thinking “Wow.”

 

Tell us something funny about your love story…

 

Something funny about it? I’m not sure it’s really funny but we did snog at a Christmas party. I shared with her that I’d had lightening bolts about her. That seemed to do the trick. We got married two years later.

 

Describe your marriage in three words

 

Love, laughter and gratitude.

 

Anything else you’d like to say

 

I believe you get one life and you should live it how you want to, don’t listen to anyone else. Be nice to people. Be polite. Love a lot.

 

 

Thank you, Matt. You are a good Dad and bloody decent grown up. We love you a lot. Happy Fathers Day to all the great Dads out there, being imperfect, being great.

 

Hannah x x x

 

* Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! No.

In: From Hannah, How She (or he) Does It, Interviews, Kids and Parenting

How She Does It: Sara Alexander 0

May 3, 2017

Welcome back to our ongoing author series, How She (or He) Does It, wherein we explore the fascinating (and often delicious) lives of creative people we love and admire. Here and here are a few of our faves if you want more of a taste.

Today we bring you the delights and musings of Sara Alexander, a British-Sardinian author whose new novel, Under a Sardinian Sky is all about the things we love best here at Fork & Fiction: food, adventure, love, seductive places, food… Sara has been kind enough to answer a few of our questions and then she’s given us a glimpse into her kitchen and the kinds of things she’d cook for a languorous, aromatic Sardinian meal.

 

 

Welcome, Sara! It’s so nice to have you here on the blog. Let’s start with the basics. Tell us a little about yourself–your background and family.

My husband, two children (10 & 4), my parents and I all live together in a house in a London suburb. I’m a born and bred North West Londoner. I’ve been acting since I was a child and hovering in a make-believe world since I can remember. I’m a passionate foodie and love nothing more than a house full of folks, friends and family feasting together. I’m a descendant of some culinary wizards with a reverence for superstitions and a keen tinkering of magic….(the digestible kind, of course).

That sounds like a flavourful life! What part of the writing process brings you the most joy?

Fleeing to another time and space, the mutability of floating between characters’ outlooks, passions, desires, thoughts.

 

 

 

What do you enjoy least about writing a novel?

The sticky middle where you doubt whether you should ever have begun in the first place. That sparse blank page. The nagging voices of negativity I’m forced to work through, be it the university lecturer who told me I suffered from written constipation or an off-hand remark from a well-meaning friend about a blog post being over-written a decade ago. That sort of thing.

Oh, the sticky middle is the worst, isn’t it? Those ugly voices always shout in the quagmire. Can you tell us which books made the biggest impact on your life and why?

I adored trailing through Chaucer at school and Jane Austen because our teachers were phenomenal – they passed on their passion in spades. I also adore Isabel Allende, Joanne Harris and Tracy Chevalier for the worlds they float me to, their fierce attention to detail, their reverence for feisty and sensitive female protagonists.

Who would be on your dream dinner party guest list and why?

What a wonderful question! I think I would need to balance some literary genius with a robust amount of gregarious personalities; Cleopatra beside the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. Audrey Hepburn for elegant conversation. Grace Kelly to spin me on the dance floor after dinner. Marcus Aurelius to lead some philosophical meanderings, perhaps Buster Keaton to liven up proceedings and Amelia Earhart for stimulating descriptions of adventures to keep us all entertained.

Oooh, a dinner to remember. Perhaps a new, experimental novel idea?? We’d love to hear the conversations around that table!

Can you describe the best meal of your life? (We know it’s hard for foodies to pick just one, so a compound answer is just fine.)

That’s a toughie! Amongst the top ten is a Brazilian feast we ate at a churrascaria in San Francisco. The meats were phenomenal and the salad bar was strewn with dishes prepared with such passion and care, you could taste the attention poured over them back in the kitchen. A close second is the fish feast we have annually at my favourite restaurant L’Artista, in San Teodoro, Sardinia. The freshest seafood, cooked simply, with high quality ingredients accompanied by excellent wine – heaven.

 

 

What is always in your fridge or pantry?

Coconut milk. A dairy’s worth of parmesan and pecorino. Pasta and lentils of any colour. Monsooned Malabar coffee beans.

Why are you drawn to write about food?

Food is a language. It’s expressive. It describes the feelings of the cook, the state of mind they were in during prep. It’s laced with messages about the care the cook feels for the people they prepare for, and, for themselves. It’s an act of vulnerability and creativity. It’s the magic of alchemy. When I’m having a bad day I take the making of a broth very seriously and show myself a little love. For my Sardinian family, who are of few words, this is how they express their deepest feelings.

 

 

We couldn’t agree more (and couldn’t be more charmed by your Sardinian family)! Can you describe how you feel about the intersection between food and writing? Perhaps share some cooking tips or a recipe?

My favourite part of the writing process for Under a Sardinia Sky was delving deeply into the descriptions and acts of preparing food. It is important to me that food, much like sex, should not appear in a story for it’s own sake but because it reveals something deeper about the character and their personal journey. Food is an incredibly sensual way to explore character and story. I love trying new things, creating dishes and growing our own produce. Food is a portal to other lands, and, sometimes as close to time travel as you can get without drawing on the complexities of Quantum.

If I prepare gnochetti and fresh sauce to perfection I am in my grandma’s kitchen aged 6. To summon the spirits of Sardinia: Tip a couple of fists full of dried gnochetti (do not confuse with potato gnocchi) per person into plenty of salted simmering water. Whilst they’re cooking heat a smushed clove of garlic gently until it begins to soften in two tablespoons of olive oil. Add a bottle of passata, season well, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Stir in a little sugar or nub of dark chocolate and, when it’s cooked through (20 mins or so), tip in several fresh basil leaves, immediately turning off the heat. Allow to infuse. When the gnochetti are cooked, drain and stir them into the sauce pan, coating every little nub with the sweet tomato. Be generous with some more grated pecorino.

Delicious. Thank you, Sara. We’ll be scouring the internet for the next flight to Sardinia. All the best with your beautiful novel, and may the gnochetti-eating commence.

Ria and Hannah

XO

In: Books & Reading, Food, From Hannah, From Ria, How She (or he) Does It, Includes a recipe!, Interviews, Travel, Writing

How She Does It: Rebecca Jones from Village Kitchen 3

November 22, 2016

I want you to meet the woman who saved my life.

Okay, a bit dramatic. I want you to meet the woman who saved my sanity. This is Rebecca Jones.

 

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I’m guessing that you, like me, sometimes feel some, er, disdain, for dinner. Perhaps it’s not cooking the dinner but the preparation that goes into cooking the dinner (with kids / pets at your ankles and work / chores / worries on your mind). Perhaps it is deciding what to cook for dinner. Or, days earlier, figuring out which ingredients you need. Or shopping for said ingredients. Shopping for ingredients while children hang off the trolley like wild monkeys demanding and tantrumming like they just know your mental health is perilously fragile. Do any of these activities make you feel less than chirpy?! Don’t worry, I know those feels. And so does Rebecca Jones.

Thankfully, instead of losing her own sanity after the birth of her third child, Rebecca put those frustrations to good use and set up a business to cure them. Village Kitchen, Rebecca’s business and “baby”, as she describes it, provides delicious, hearty, home-cooked dinners. Think – slow-cooked meats and roasted vegetables, ribbons of papardelle, tangy fresh slaws, Mexican fajitas, Thai salads studded with pieces of pineapple or Beef Bourguignon. Traditional with a twist, I’d describe it. The kind of food you really, really want to make… but don’t have the time, patience, energy or inclination to do so.

Since our youngest was born we have been getting Village Kitchen meals for Matt and I several times a week. The meals are so hearty, tasty and “real” – they don’t use packet mixes or bought sauces and do not taste like takeaways – that we now have a subscription we simply roll over week to week. We know the food will be great and the portions generous – it is really good value for money – but frankly, mainly, Village Kitchen simply makes our lives a LOT easier. Initially I felt a bit guilty about getting help with dinners but now I just feel really lucky to have access to a service and business like Village Kitchen. Plus, it is so satisfying to support someone like Rebecca, who is creating a wonderful, thriving and meaningful local business.

 

Rebecca, tell the good people how Village Kitchen came to be:

Long story! It definitely didn’t happen overnight. It came from an idea I had after I had three babies…close together! We had no family anywhere near, and life was hard – so so hard! All I remember in that hazy blur was 1) how hard it was! 2) how, at the end of the day, when we’d finally got everyone into bed, all I craved was a beautiful, home-cooked dinner and some quiet time with my husband, and how that never actually happened and we always ended up with takeaways – EGH! And 3) the kindness of people, two in particular, that I met through Plunket [baby healthcare support and organisation in New Zealand]– local girls both with daughters born within 2 days of my eldest. In the early years, these lovely souls would appear at my door to take one or more toddlers away for an afternoon of fun – always just when I needed it most. So I got this enormous appreciation for doing things for others – it really resonates with me, because I really know how the teeniest act of kindness can make a world of a difference to someone (it did with me, a lot!).

Obviously doing nice things for others out of the goodness of one’s heart is not the sort of hard-nosed strategy one might build a wildly successful business around, but I feel that that philosophy does underpin everything we do at Village Kitchen. It genuinely makes me happy to know that what we are doing is lightening people’s load – lots of people! We know many of our people by name, we know what they like, what they don’t like, and we genuinely care about the meal that each customer will receive each evening. The feedback we receive on a regular basis makes it all so worthwhile. Village Kitchen has elicited an incredible response – I knew it would – so to be sticking to our values, and attracting new customers each week (as well as retaining our loyal fans) – well to me, it’s all good! I really believe that business doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) be all ruthlessness and no heart – there is most definitely flexibility.

 

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It seems to me that business-building really resonates with you, really fits who you are as a person. Was this always the case? Tell us about some of your past life jobs…

Okay, I’ve had some interesting ones…. Sorting dags (dictionary definition: lock of matted or dung-coated wool), pulling claybirds (from a 1m3 dugout for 2x 12hr days), clearing an acre of gnarly scrub by hand, scrubbing a vast cigarette-stained ceiling (stiff neck!). The awful ones spring to mind, but there have been so many interesting past life jobs. A best friend and I set up a ‘handyman/odd job’ business one school holidays. We charged $5/hr for both of us, and we cleaned windows, scrubbed toilets, polished silver, water-blasted, weeded, cleared out garages, cut back hedges – basically anything that needed doing. We were booked every single day of that summer hols, made several hundred dollars each and managed to fit in a huge amount of fun. It was most definitely a case of work hard, play hard. Neither of us will ever forget it – so much fun (despite most of it being back-breaking, smelly and horrid)! I’ve always craved independence, and to me having your own hard-earned money is hugely gratifying. That’s always been my big motivator – to earn your own money, and do with it what you will (for me, the big goal was getting overseas, to as many places as possible, off my own bat, which I did, and loved). It’s something I want to impress upon my own kids. To learn the value of a hard day’s work. Plus, I have huge determination. Tell me it can’t be done and I’ll be forced to prove you wrong. I don’t know where this craziness comes from! Sometimes it’s painful (ask my husband!).

 

Is that the advice you would give others who might want to start their own business – Be Determined? What do you advise others? Was there a pivotal event that spurred you on?

Erm… hang on tight? It is such an emotional rollercoaster! So many ups, and many downs – but these all balance out, and in the rare moments when I’m able to step back from the business, I get a huge sense of pride in what we have achieved, and continue to achieve.

The pivotal event I experienced wasn’t so much a ‘kick up the bum’ moment – because I was almost desperate to get Village Kitchen started – it was more that the tiny flicker of a dream I’d harboured, over the course of seven years of the demands of tiny people and domesticity, had grown into a raging bushfire! Our second daughter starting school in 2015 combined with reading a book on business by an entrepreneur I very much admire were the catalysts – I wasn’t prepared to wait any longer with Village Kitchen. So I started. And that part was remarkably easy – looking back!

 

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So if entrepreneurship is at your core or in your blood….what lead you to work with food?

Well, I always loved food, and cooking, and I’ve got a massive sweet tooth. From 1997 to 2007, I lived in Europe – ten years in six different countries. During that time I experienced quite a few years of ill-health. It was not attributed to anything and never explained, until one specialist tested for coeliac disease. When I got the positive result I really despaired about the rest of my cake-eating future. Actually I got very down about it – such a sweet tooth, never to eat cake or biscuit again! But necessity made me look outside the square and actually the coeliac thing became very easy to manage. I found ways to build the sweet stuff back in (told you I am determined!). In recent years the popularity of gluten-free food, and even better ‘clean’ eating, has been so great for people like me. There are so many incredible sweet treats to be had that are kind to my tummy.

 

Who is your favourite chef or cookbook author?

Many many. My style is casual, but properly thought out, rustic, whole, homemade, seasonal, delicious. I admire the style of Al Brown and Jamie Oliver, people like that. Starting Village Kitchen brought me into contact with chef Jeremy Schmid. Such a dark horse on NZ’s cooking scene, but has excelled in almost anything you can think of in the industry. Not at all precious, very down to earth, incredibly clever, and so generous with his time, knowledge, equipment, supplies (especially in the early days when I was learning about ordering, quantities, suppliers, etc). I don’t think we’d be where we are without his guidance over the past 15 months. So yep I’d have to say Jeremy (and yes he’s a 3-time cookbook author – there’s nothing the man can’t do).

 

Pet food hates?

Overcooked greens.

 

What about dream dinner party guests?

My Brick Lane (London) posse; all nine of us. School and university friends who ended up living together in London’s dodgy East End (it was dodgy then!) for several years. We would be sitting around our rickety old kitchen table, where we had so so many laughs, parties, tears, drama – but mainly laughs; with copious amounts of wine. And we’d likely be eating a curry from one of the world-famous Brick Lane curry houses we lived up the road from. We are spread out all around the world, so I’m not sure when we’ll be able to get together again but… one day!

 

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Finally, what is life like as a business owner and parent of young kids? Which qualities are most important for the work that you do?

The business is like a fourth baby, but instead of fitting in around the other kids, as subsequent babies usually have to, this one takes front and centre stage for all of us and we all just squeeze in around it. Such a show off! I have to say, in the past 15 months my actual three children have become hugely resilient! Which I joke about, but secretly makes me feel pretty chuffed.

As for the qualities that are most important… Guts, stickability, determination, heart and compassion.

…….

 

As you know, we don’t do sponsored posts around here (we are willing to accept very large donations from adoring fans, however) but I will make this one public service announcement / plea – Please don’t feel guilty about resenting (insert swear word) dinner or getting help to get it on the table. We all have mad, busy, full lives. We all have big and small humans to connect with, to love and to support, work to be done and projects to be completed. If you are lucky enough to be able to support a local business – and, therefore, family! – to give you a helping hand then I say – do it! In my experience, outsourcing dinner has made cooking more joyful again and gives our family extra opportunities to connect with one another.

So, thank you, Rebecca. My mental health gives Village Kitchen two thumbs ups, a huge hug, several high-fives and a big kiss.

 

With love,

Hannah x

In: Food, From Hannah, How She (or he) Does It, Interviews, Kids and Parenting

Fantastic Four: An Anniversary 8

July 13, 2016

Baffled and bewildered, Ria and I recently figured out we have been blogging here together for FOUR YEARS. That’s right. Longer than the average age of a pet hamster. Four whole years of diligently writing and cooking and photographing and sharing in this space, for you and for each other. It’s certainly been a journey. Wishing for a real, live, in-person catch up, but thwarted by geography, time and finances, we’ve had to opt for the next best thing – a blog catch up.

2012…

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Join us to review the last few years and peek into what we hope for the future. Plus, check out each of our top four posts and tell us which posts you liked best. We love hearing from you, as always.

[Read more →]

In: Books & Reading, Food, From Hannah, From Ria, Interviews, Kids and Parenting, Writing